When a reporter makes a toxic assumption about the Fordham community

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.45.39 PMIt’s easy to jab administrators and student leaders — as I enjoy doing every once in a blue moon — but when the time comes, I think it’s important to be able to lend a hand of support, and show that, in fact, you do bleed Fordham red.

While I don’t usually venture into the sometimes perilous terrain of op-ed or opinion writing — and I never so much as try to write about sports — an article came across my desk the other day that I found to be really troubling and worth sharing.

The article — titled online, “Tom Pecora says Derrick Gordon’s visit to Fordham won’t be an issue” — was written by Steven Marcus, a reporter at Newsday, and begins:  “Fordham basketball coach Tom Pecora expects no problems when Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon — the first openly gay player in Division I men’s basketball — visits Rose Hill next winter.”

The subsequent 346-word article is about how nothing bad will happen when Derrick Gordon, an openly gay basketball player, visits the Rose Hill Gym next season. That’s it.

Not only is the writing rather elementary for a reporter who’s supposedly been in the business since before 1972, but the article’s clearly divisive angle is what I, as a member of the Fordham community (obviously not on the basketball team), found most offensive.

Marcus makes a toxic, unwarranted assumption about the Fordham community by implying that a gay basketball player may be subjected to homophobic outrage or acts of danger at Rose Hill. Why, because Fordham is a Catholic school? It really makes no sense to me.

“If someone were to do something improper or inappropriate to him from the stands at one of our games — which I would be shocked by because we’re in New York and it’s as diverse and cosmopolitan city as there is in the world — if it were to happen, I would go and defend him before he could get to those people,” Pecora, Fordham’s basketball coach, said in the article. “But I don’t anticipate that at Fordham or anywhere else.”

“Pecora said his team would be unfazed by Gordon’s announcement,” Marcus wrote.

“I don’t think there’s one guy in my locker room that would have an issue with it,” Pecora said. “On campus they deal with openly gay students who are their friends. What’s the difference in the locker room?”

No other school is mentioned in the article. Furthermore, Pecora is not generally asked about Gordon’s coming out, but it would appear he’s asked specifically about how Fordham would respond to playing against a gay student.

I’ve asked Joe Moorhead what he thinks about Michael Sam’s coming out, and if you’re looking for expert opinion on an issue that’s totally fine, but don’t make up an issue out of thin air. (Ironic that I’m saying that, you’re thinking.)

I asked Marcus to clarify his reporting, but he declined. His editor never responded to my inquiry. And a Fordham flack seemed cool with the article.

“I think that the article was questioning whether Derrick Gordon’s coming out would be an issue for not just Fordham students but for home students at any away game that UMass plays,” he told me. (Apparently, there’s a growing trend of college basketball players hating on each other.)

“In other words, would it be something that students would use to disrupt Gordon during the game, not doing it because they are homophobic in any way but to just try and throw Gordon off his game. I agree with Coach Pecora and think students today are above that,” he continued.

Ok, but why not mention any additional schools in the article? Or broaden the issue at all beyond Rose Hill’s gates?

He replied: “Steve Marcus and Tom Pecora have a relationship from Pecora’s days at Hofstra and since we play in the same conference it would make sense for him to reach out to Pecora.”

The Fordham community I know is better than this and the basketball team doesn’t deserve to be the subject of this sort of accusatory article. Interpret the article how you will, but it clearly highlights Fordham without merit or good reason.

Steven Marcus should work to get a few more sources and write articles that at least attempt to be fair and balanced — requires a little more work, but isn’t that like Journalism 101?

In the interest of full disclosure, I once worked at Newsday.

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